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The Return of the Prisoner Snatch

October 9th, 2013 - 2:28 pm

Al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda are reacting to the failed attempt by SEALs to snatch Abdikadar Mohamed Abdikadar — AKA Ikrima — by searching their ranks for an American mole. The NYT says “people suspected of spying for the enemy [the US] have been rounded up and arrested” even as more security was added to the beachfront town of Barawe where the raid took place.

The reasons for their precautions are obvious. What Ikrima knew nearly fell into the hands of the SEALs. He’s believed to be a link to Shabaab’s funders and the liaison with al-Qaeda abroad. “Residents of Barawe, the town where the raid took place, say Ikrima is a leader in the militia with responsibility for logistics,” probably meaning ‘for supplying money’. Reuters describes his international connections thus:

One defector from al Shabaab, who now works with Somali intelligence, described Ikrima as a well-connected man in his 30s able to mastermind operations across the border into Kenya.

In 2004, he travelled to Norway where he applied for asylum but left in 2008 before there was a decision on his application, Norway’s TV2 reported. When in Norway, he lived in the Oslo area but visited Somalia, it said. …

J Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council think tank said Ikrima had a range of links including with another active group, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

“Ikrima seems to have his own connections both to al Hijra and to al Qaeda, including what is left of the central leadership in Pakistan and AQAP in Yemen,” he said.

Normally attended by a retinue of 20 bodyguards, Ikrima was valuable to the SEALs only if he could be taken alive. One piece of information the US may have sought was whether al-Qaeda was planning an attack on the West, a possibility that the NYT curiously restates as a consequence of rather than a probable cause of the raid.

But there is also the question of whether, by engaging the group so aggressively, the United States may have made itself more of a target. The Shabab have claimed responsibility for deadly strikes in Uganda and Kenya, two nations that have sent troops to fight it in recent years, and the group has killed scores of civilians in what it has called reprisals for military incursions into Somalia.

But that Ikrima  would target America must be a given, since Pentagon spokesman George Little said “Ikrima was also closely associated with Harun Fazul and Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, who he said “played roles” in the 1998 bombing of the United States embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, and in the 2002 attacks on a hotel and airline in Mombassa, Kenya.”

The raid may revive public debate over the question of the importance of human intelligence in fighting al-Qaeda. Recent stories on NSA signals omnipotence hide the fact there are many things the NSA can’t learn from wiretapping. Human intelligence played a role in finding Osama bin Laden, a fact highlighted when the Obama administration tried to pull strings to save Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani health official who helped find him in Abbotabad.

The man was rewarded for his actions by Pakistan who sentenced him to 33 years in jail, a sentence that has just been overturned.

A Pakistani administrator has overturned a judgment sentencing a doctor who helped CIA agents hunting the al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden to 33 years in prison.

Lawyers for Shakil Afridi, who was convicted of treason in May last year, played down his chances of release, but experts said the decision could be related to a recent improvement in difficult relations between the US and Pakistan. John Kerry, the US secretary of state, raised the issue of Afridi’s imprisonment when visiting Islamabad in July….

As first revealed by the Guardian, in the weeks running up to the assault by US navy seals Afridi ran a bogus hepatitis B vaccination campaign for the CIA, designed to collect blood samples in the hope of finding people who matched the Bin Laden family DNA. A match would have helped to definitively identify the extremist leader.

Naturally the Shabaabs are looking for the inside man in the Barawe raid. And if they find him they will not be gentle in asking how he made the acquaintance of US intelligence.

The return of the prisoner snatch is ironically justified under the very law President Obama seeks to repeal. Bill Roggio writes, “the Department of Defense cited the AUMF [Authorization to Use Military Force] in a press release announcing the raid that targeted Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, also known as Ikrima, a Kenyan who serves as a senior Shabaab leader and coordinates the group’s operations outside Somalia with al Qaeda’s central command in Pakistan.”

But the Pentagon’s use of the AUMF to justify the raid to capture Ikrima comes just four months after Obama gave a speech at the National Defense University calling for the repeal of the law. Obama painted a rosy picture of the war in Afghanistan and al Qaeda, claiming that the former is “coming to an end” and the latter is “a shell of its former self.”

“I intend to engage Congress about the existing Authorization to Use Military Force, or AUMF, to determine how we can continue to fight terrorism without keeping America on a perpetual wartime footing. The AUMF is now nearly 12 years old,” Obama said. “The Afghan war is coming to an end. Core al Qaeda is a shell of its former self. Groups like AQAP [al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States.”

Shabaab was not mentioned by Obama as posing a threat to the United States.

For most of Obama’s first term the administration acted as if they were out of the prisoner capture business. US prisons like Guantanamo were slated for closure in favor of simply zapping suspected militants with drones. The US could certainly have incinerated Ikrima’s house with airstrike or drone — but they did not.

Some in the administration may have thought al-Qaeda was finished even before the bin Laden raid, and could therefore dispense with politically dangerous acts like taking prisoners and holding them for interrogation. Vince Coglianese at the Daily Caller quotes the author of Chuck Pfarrer, author of Seal Target Geronimo as saying the administration preferred to take the victory lap rather than exploit the intel captured in Abbotabad.

President Obama stepped up to a podium in the East Room of the White House that night to announce bin Laden’s death. That rapid announcement, explained Pfarrer, posed a major threat to U.S. national security.

“There was a choice that night,” Pfarrer told TheDC. “There was a choice to keep the mission secret.” America, Pfarrer explained, could have left things alone for “weeks or months … even though there was evidence left on the ground there … and use the intelligence and finish off al-Qaida.”

But Obama’s announcement, he said, “rendered moot all of the intelligence that was gathered from the nexus of al-Qaida. The computer drives, the hard drives, the videocasettes, the CDs, the thumb drives, everything. Before that could even be looked through, the political decision was made to take credit for the operation.”

The fact that it’s back suggests the administration may now have come around to the belief that the Sunni Islamic militancy is far from dead. The damage inflicted by Edward Snowden’s revelations of NSA capabilities may have created blind spots, or the intelligence community may simply have decided that taking prisoners again was the only way to find out what they needed to know.

In retrospect the Bush years, for all their defects, probably handed Obama a security margin that he felt it was too large to actually squander. He could earn a political dividend by safely spending that accumulated surplus. Scaling back was not only politically popular with his base, but gave away nothing essential. However his calculations, like his Obamacare website, fell short in anticipation and execution.  Al-Qaeda is back and full of confidence. Emblematic of the new situation is the story of Abu Omar, as related by Foreign Policy.  Omar is now shopping in Turkey for GPS equipment, digital maps and computing equipment he intends to take with him on his return to the Jihad.

Abu Omar, a handsome young man with long black hair, is not the only one making the trek to Syria. Hundreds of Iraqi prisoners — mostly suspected or convicted jihadists — were freed in July after al Qaeda-linked militants staged a deadly jailbreak at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. At the time, Iraqi and Western authorities feared that some of those men would travel to Syria, helping to fuel the rise of extremist groups there. Those fears have now become a reality.

Abu Omar is one of the al Qaeda members who escaped during the Abu Ghraib prison break. He says six of his former cellmates have also made it to Syria. “Many more are on their way,” he says in a strong Iraqi Arabic accent. “Everybody wants to go for jihad to Syria.”

Where Abu Omar goes after Syria is starting to worry MI5 Chief Andrew Parker who unambiguously fears that people like Omar are headed West after gaining combat experience in Syria, according to the Washington Post. From half-closing Abu Ghraib, half-trying Khalid Sheik Mohammed to half-overthrowing Assad in Syria and thence is a story of choices made, or rather half made.

“Threats are diversifying, but not diminishing,” Parker told the Royal United Services Institute in his first public speech. “The Internet, technology and big data are transforming our society. … We can’t stop every plot, much as we try and much as we would like to. There are choices ahead that will determine whether we can sustain what we do, or accept that it will erode.”

President Obama’s counter-terrorism strategy is now getting an implicit bug fix, though naturally it’s only experiencing temporary glitches. Publicly all remains well, but anyone can guess there are nagging problems about the administration’s competence, which are now getting too big to hide. As Jon Stewart told Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, won’t you even admit you have a problem?

“We’re gonna do a challenge,” Stewart said. “I’m gonna try to download every movie ever made, and you’re going to try to sign up for Obamacare and we’ll see what happens first.”

Manifestly the administration has no problems.  Like the Obamacare website, the President’s security strategy is simply overwhelmed by its own success.

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Top Rated Comments   
"If I were to guess I'd say that the Nairobi mall attack has got them worried about a possible operation against the West. And the only way to find out was to snatch somebody."

I hope we never forgive nor forget the treasonous acts of the NY Times under G.W. Bush's presidency - disclosing to the enemy on numerous occasions how we were monitoring and tracking them: SWIFT messages, cell phones, etc.,

In trying to hurt a president they loathed, they endangered our country. They weren't blind to that fact. They just couldn't give a rats bottom.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think we are manifestly close to the tipping point. Lost in the shutdown news were reports that US is no longer sending military aid to Egypt, which means they are close to an open breach with Cairo. The Chinese were hinting that the absence of Obama in the Asia summit told US allies that they were on their own. They are bound to think that.

Obama never really fixed Syria, which was turned from a threat to Assad to a threat against the West. He's abandoned Iraq to Iran and will abandon Afghanistan to the Taliban. Nor was there any real resolution to the al-Qaeda north African threat. Iran -- well nobody's going to stop Iran. North Korea ditto. Internationally things can hardly get worse. And yet they will get worse.

Domestically Obama has run things into the ground. He's now making the argument that not letting him borrow money is unpatriotic and treasonous. He can't even get his Obamacare website work. Actually he can't get anything to work, nothing to turn a profit. All he can do is stick it to The Man. And the Man's broke.

America's enemies can see the truth even if the media fails to report it. The US is adrift, in the hands of incompetent lying fools who are abetted by a tame journalistic coterie. MI5 says the Snowden damage is going to cause "widespread loss of life" for we can no longer see into the enemy's plans.

Obama has been relying on unsustainable shortcuts to make up for fundamentally defective strategic decisions. He sought to make up for bad policy by working the NSA and the drones harder. But he's only succeeded in pushing them past their acceptable limits, leading to a reaction against them.

Now that the palliatives no longer work, we are thrown back on the underlying failure of his policies. The pills are wearing off. I believe we are close to entering a period where the full cost of his stupidities will be fully felt.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The administration's strategy is to enact a dysfunctional rule and then issue a waiver or exception when it desires a spot-success. For example,

President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), headed by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, has now granted Obamacare waivers to the entire states of Nevada and New Hampshire. In its letter to Nevada, HHS admits that, without the waiver, “there is a reasonable likelihood” that Obamacare would result in “market destabilization, and thus harm to consumers.”

Anyone who really matters is exempted from Obamacare. You issue the exception for success because you've mandated failure through the general rule. It's the same deal with his security policy.

No to extrajudicial killings or assassinations -- except when he authorizes it. There's actually a Kill List. No prisoners will be taken, because its a bad, inhuman idea -- instead they will only killed -- unless they are detained on USN ships, by his order.

Everything is forbidden, except to himself. His idea of management is to implement general failure, marred only by success when permitted. Close the parks to WW2 vets, but keep it open for an illegal alien rally. And so on.

It is very suggestive of an incompetent, control-freak manager who won't admit ever to a mistake; who resorts to the stealth edit, the sock puppet and historical revision to make his horrible record an apparent success.
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1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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Apparently the Seals abandoned the battle when they noticed too many children in the area. What a tragedy!

So in our mania to avoid "collateral damage," a hardened terrorist is not killed, so to show his gratitude, he will quickly slaughter many other parents' children in Kenya. We will spare HIS and his associates' childrens, which will prove to the world how moral we are.


Using the current logic of affairs, instead of firebombing Tokyo and nuking Hiroshima, today we would send lightly-armed special forces combing through Japan to serve the Pearl Harbor pilots with a Summons to make their initial appearances on a Federal indictment.

Obama doesn't fight a half-a$$ed war any worse than Bush did.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
On the other hand, merely creating "mole paranoia" is useful in itself.
It's remarkably easy to exploit.
The Israelis can kill a Palestinian in the West Bank merely by having one of their officers approach him in broad daylight, smile, and hand him an envelope with cash. The man is walking dead from that moment on.
During the Vietnam War, the CIA would occasionally let prisoners go free after "leaking" to them the name of a communist party official who was supposedly helping the CIA. Easy, cheap way of assassinating a communist party official.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Ikrima was valuable to the SEALs only if he could be taken alive."

"He sought to make up for bad policy by working the NSA and the drones harder. But he's only succeeded in pushing them past their acceptable limits, leading to a reaction against them."

I disagree very strongly with the idea of taking Jihadi prisoners. It is a symptom of a system that seeks simply to hoard intelligence (which they don't use anyway). Putting the Seals in danger only to back off because "capturing" was unfeasable is a fantastic way of causing this War to get even more unpopular than it already is. Capturing these people and then subjecting them to endless legal wranglings was Bush's downfall. Sooner or later, you have to kill these people. The "capture" mentality and the hoarding of worthless "intelligence" has no public support.

I seriously doubt there every has been or ever will be a serious backlash against the use of drones among the American public.

".....the administration acted as if they were out of the prisoner capture business. US prisons like Guantanamo were slated for closure in favor of simply zapping suspected militants with drones. The US could certainly have incinerated Ikrima’s house with airstrike or drone — but they did not."

Which is precisely why this "war" has lost all public support. Just like the Vietnam war, where Johnson personally selected targets in an ill-advised attempt to finely calibrate the Paris "Peace" talks, he created an insurmountable public backlash to continuing the war. The War in Terror had immense public support until it became a nation building exercise -where both Iraq and Afghanistan are immune to civilization - with soldiers being turned into heavily armed social workers seeking to "bring to justice" the bad guys by feeding them ethnically appropriate cuisine in a tropical paradise with decades-long legal wrangling.

Especially where ordinary Americans are subjected to far, far worse jails and far less justice.

We remember World War 2 so fondly mainly because we set out to win it. No war since then will ever have that kind of public support because the public knows that we have no intention of ever winning another war.
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1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Reality intrudes.

Richard, you know IT, you know how to design a project that dooms it to failure. The Obamacare project is far too complicated, far too undefined, far too changing, the goals are indeterminate and far too ambitious. And yet these idiots do it anyways, and insult anyone who dare wonder if it is a good idea or not.

I agree with you that they have used up the security that was bought at a high price during the Bush administration. Again, a bunch of blithering idiots who believe in magic. Yes, we can fight a war against a mobile enemy in the mountains of Afghanistan with supply chains running through a hostile country. Supply chains? What is that? Logistics? To win a war all you need to do is threaten, expose and humiliate the individuals in command.

I've said all along that this guy is a vacuous twit. His skill is to make everyone in his presence think that they are in the presence of great minds. And yes, the consequences are starting to come. When you eat your seed corn eventually your children starve.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I personally believe this was just orchestrated to show the President in a good light while trashing the GOP over the shutdown. The closing of the monuments did not go over well so a sideshow was arranged.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In 2004, he [Ikrima] travelled to Norway where he applied for asylum a Nobel Peace Prize but left in 2008 before there was a decision on his application, Norway’s TV2 reported.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The fact they were willing to run the risk of taking prisoners means they needed Ikrima.

I wish I could see it that way, more like the only action they would consider taking was a kidnapping and that only if no women or children would be hurt.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Knowing who Ikirima is and knowing what he is connected to I have just one question;
Why did Barry want to interrupt him? Jealousy?

Bill de Blasio will become the next mayor of New York. Yesterday one of the throw away free papers had a big article on how the desperate Republican Lhota was condemning the crazy Tea Party in Washington. The first thing the Democrats, and de Blasio is really something much farther to the left than what we used to call a Democrat, will do is dismantle the NYPD surveillance of Muslims and ramp up the measures, like the already judicially imposed restriction on "Stop and Frisk", that will cost lives and hurt business. The second thing they will do is attack business in their belief that Wall Street is a synonym for Cookie Jar.

The results will be devastating. Jihadis will move in to feast on the corpse. I am willing to wager $5 that New York will have a Nairobi style attack in the next three years. Given that Macys just spent $400 million on renovations you may want to see the results soon. In fact it is best to get your Broadway show experience and Christmas shopping for next year done early.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You need to sign up for 'premium' in order to download all movies- otherwise it could take you all week.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think that North African threat was amplified by the Gaddafi removal.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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